This blog will be pure speculation, but I do think I am on to something…
Once you reach a certain age, you no longer care what the world thinks.
So, hear me out on this, because there may be some great lessons in this mindset. It is a tough habit to break, worrying about what others think of you. We all judge people by their appearance; it doesn’t make you racist or a bad person, this is a built-in survival response from long ago. We are programmed as human beings for things like this; crazy to think this but it is true that we are still using the old operating system to run our lives. Yes, the software program that we used as hunters/gatherers is the same software we are running today taking a Lyft to and from work.
This was necessary to survive in a world where everything was trying to eat you and where anyone you didn’t know directly was likely a threat to your well-being. Fitting into a society of people was vital to your survival, and so blending in with those around you became a skill that literally meant life or death. This was especially true around the age of adolescence, and still holds true today. At some point you switch from striving for the approval of your parents to needing it from your peer group. It becomes a driving force, so much so that peer pressure gets you to do things you would not normally do just to part of the group. As we get older this hopefully fades, but not for all of us. Some people live their whole lives like high school never ended.
Then there is the man from the picture above…hard to say anything about him and assume it is accurate, but allow me to give it a shot. This is a guy with two or three kids, all of who are grown and doing okay on their own. He has a middle management position that is a soul-sucker of a job, but it is safe. He is used to the grind, and knows his position in the company is as secure as it can be, all things considered. His is preoccupied with work most of the time, and on occasion when he isn’t doing yard work or cleaning out the garage at the behest of his wife of 25 years, he gets a moment of nothingness watching football on Sunday. Do you really think a guy like this gives a shit what anyone else thinks? Maybe there is a lesson or two to be learned here:
Clothes don’t make the man (person)
Life is not about comparison to others
Comfort over fashion
Trends come and go, but some things stay put
If you’ve got your sh*t under control there isn’t much else to worry about
Take heed to this wise man’s approach. High school is long over, it doesn’t matter where your neighbors went of vacation or what car they drive. The “job” he chose was to raise kids and provide them an opportunity to pursue the things they want. Keep the wife happy and be a good partner. Provide for everyone under your charge. Lead by example at work and keep adding to the 401K. That’s about it. Everyone comes before he does; he eats last, despite doing the heavy lifting. In some ways this is a man’s lot in life. It creeps up on you, unseen, and before you know it you are falling into the same groove that many others do as well. This is the definition of “normal”.
Now, a couple of thoughts around this. One, maybe this guy is tired and has just given up worrying about looking cool. He has checked the boxes in life and is on cruise control from this point forward. Maybe he is broken to some degree, life has beaten him down. All the heavy lifting has taken its toll, and he secretly wants out. He has regrets he’ll never verbalize, but they are there. Instead of doing something adventurous that he can brag about and look back on fondly, he played it safe. Maybe he had a shot to play a sport for a living, or had an idea that was an entrepreneurial venture that would have been huge it is hit, but was a little risky. He had a wife and kids to take care of, and so he played it safe. Went the corporate route, securing his financial future while killing the liberated heart he once had.
Maybe he did do all the things I mentioned above, gave it a shot, threw caution to the wind. It’s possible he is in recovery mode, having lost it all on a gamble that didn’t pay off. He is worn out from the struggles and now has settled into a “comfortable” groove from a financial perspective. Now he finally gets to breathe a little instead of every day fighting a dragon. Maybe he just has bad fashion sense. It is hard to say, as we are all different.
Here is the thing that I want you to think about:
What do you want your life story to be?
You have to plan for a life that is worth living. Don’t get me wrong, going the corporate route, raising a family and retiring at 65 with a little money in the bank is what most people strive for. Many would be very proud and satisfied with this outcome. It’s admirable to raise tiny humans into successful and stable adults, and it ain’t easy from what I have seen. Part of the reason our society seemingly gets softer by generation is because so many HAVE achieved the goal of providing for their family and making sure their lives are easier than their own. It’s a lot of work to put that much effort for the benefit of others, and I admire those who can do it.
For me, I didn’t go that route, and that was by design. I didn’t sacrifice much of my life for the benefit of others. As selfish as that sounds, I do not regret my decisions. I was never a huge fan of kids, two years as a summer camp counselor cured that. I have seen the struggles that having children puts on individuals and on couples as well. I know that it is a strain on a marriage. I know that it limits some of the things you can do in life, like play racquetball for a living until you are 30. Despite having a good relationship with my family, I never had a huge desire to be on the other side of that as a parent. I credit myself for listening to that voice in my head and forging my own path. I didn’t play it safe, I ventured out and explored. I did things the hard way. I learned and grew, I struggled and I triumphed.
To quote my good buddy Jim:
“Don’t try to follow in my footsteps…you won’t make it”
So while you won’t see me wearing jean shorts and a pair of comfortable white New Balance shoes, I am not going to knock that guy either. We made our choices in life, and we lived out those choices. Maybe in some ways I took the easy route, focusing on only myself instead of sacrificing for others. Maybe I was the one who was scared, not that guy. It’s hard to say, as each of us walks our own path. There really is no way to compare stories because of the differences, so why bother? Many people would not have wanted the life I have led, others would kill for it. Sometimes it appears the grass is greener elsewhere, but you never know until you get there and sometimes getting there costs you everything else.
So the next time you see “that guy” in the grocery store following his wife while pushing the cart, ask yourself this question: Is that the guy I want to be? It may very well be, or maybe the complete opposite is what you are shooting for. Either way, get a plan in place and listen to that voice in your head. Don’t give so much weight to what others say, as they have no idea of your life, its circumstances, and what your goals and dreams are. Stop living like your still in high school, evolve for Christ sake. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks, walk your own path…even if it is in a pair of white New Balance.
There was a famous study done a long time ago called the Stanford Marshmallow Test, and basically what is was supposed to help determine was a child’s ability to delay gratification and how this outlook […]